It's A Big World

and I'm just a squirrel trying to get a nut.

Today we hit one of the eight wonders of the world, the Great Wall of China. The weather was about 15 degrees cooler than yesterday so the heat was much more bearable.  After a quick breakfast, we took a cab to get to the subway, then rode it across town to get on a bus. The bus ride was about an hour as we headed up to the mountains surrounding Beijing.  The Great Wall was amazing. To imagine how hard the peasants must have had to work to build the structure. We hiked to the highest point (in the area) with plenty of rest breaks along the way.

For dinner we went into a section of Beijing called Hou Hai. It was a trendy restaurant/bar type area that attracts many tourists. A nice lake and channel ran through the district providing a nice scene. We ate pizza and drank some beers on top of one of the restaurants.

(The pic w/ the hole in the floor is the squatty potty version of a toilet that if found throughout China…even in the McDonalds)

The last couple of days have been so hot but we’ve forged on with our travel plans.  Today it reached 106 and it feels so  much hotter when walking to the down the street surrounded by concrete!

We started off the day eating Thai food. I sampled several dishes and struggled with my chopsticks.

Thai Food

We then rode the subway to the other end side of Beijing to visit a park called the Summer Palace. To give some perspective, the subway trip took around an hour to get there from the Thai restaurant.  The Summer Palace was built by an emperor as a vacation home of sorts.  We rented a boat and cruised around the lake, did some hiking, made some friends, and drank lots of water.

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After exploring the Summer Palace for hours, we jumped in a cab and rode to the CCTV Tower for an awesome view of Beijing. The viewing deck gave some perspective on the extent of the city. Beijing has 12 million residents.  In comparison, New York has 8 million & L.A. has 4 million.

We then headed for some Peking Duck and some big beers. We hailed a cab for the long journey back across town. I mentioned in a previous post how crazy the traffic is throughout town.  Well, we saw how crazy it was when our cabbie started taking a right-hand turn and a guy on a moped tried to beat him through the corner…the cab one.  BUT, it didn’t appear that anyone was badly hurt.  We jumped in another cab while the cops did what they had to do.


The duck was amazing but we didn’t eat any of the head that was also cooked and brought out.  We also had watermelon juice.  Weird.

Head of Duck - Look for the eyes

Heading to the Great Wall tomorrow!

After a long night, we awoke early to go and meet some administrators from FHSU that happen to be in Beijing on business.  We spent several hours with them and then headed to the area of Beijing that is commonly referred to as the Silicon Valley of Beijing. It is also an the section of Beijing where the majority of colleges and universities are located.Pictured is one of the more interesting buildings.

Kevin and one of the other guys that is going on our trip went downtown to the Silk Street District to buy some clothes.  The stores were basically 10ft x 10ft booths selling leather, wallets, purses, clothes, etc.  It was a cool experience but the people working the booths were very aggressive and would try to pull you into their booth. Very annoying but something I had to experience. I did buy a tailor made shirt that I have to pick up before I leave – it costs me something like $12.  It should be pretty nice.

Kevin, Darren, and I then hit a joint for some mexican food and beer and headed back to the apartment. This was certainly one of the more interesting events of the day. I rode on the back of Darren’s scooter and saw my life flash before my lives on a couple of occasions. I recorded the whole thing and will eventually post to youtube.  The driving rules and regs are certainly different than in the US!  Good times.

Finally, the heat and humidity here make South Louisiana feel like Colorado.  With the exception of a few parks (which are beautiful), Beijing is a city of concrete. Walking through the streets feels like walking through an oven baking at 350 degrees!  Really has me wondering how we’ll make it through Vietnam and Cambodia!

Flag Raising

CCTV Building "Squatters Building"

Downtown Streets of Beijing

Streets of Beijing - Bicycles!

Double Decker Bicycle Parking

My flight was long but uneventful and I arrived in Beijing at 11pm. Kevin was there to pick me up and we ventured straight to his apartment. After shooting the breeze for a bit I crashed.

This morning we went to Longtanhu Park and people-watched. For lunch we ate noodles with brown stuff that Kevin never did tell me what it was. Went to the Pearl Market, Temple of Heaven, TianAnMen Square, HuTong (old system of Beijing alleys). The picture of the building is of Kevin’s apartment. The picture of the street is from the front of Kevin’s apartment building. The view of the dilapidated houses is from behind Kevin’s apartment.

Later in the afternoon we cruised around Beijing riding two vintage scooters.

Eventually I’ll post pictures with descriptions but for now I’ll simply provide a few pictures from today.

My Southeast Asia Adventure begins in a few days and I’m not quite sure how to pack. I need to fit everything I need for two weeks into a backpack and still leave room for any souvenirs I want to bring home with me.

The itinerary as I know it is like this:

July 2nd – Fly from KC to Chicago and then the 13 hour flight to Beijing.
July 3rd – Arrive in Bejing
July 9 or 10 – Fly to Ho Chi Minh
July 16 – Fly from Bangkok to Kansas City

What will we be doing is still up in the air. I’ve listed some of the places we may be visiting on other areas of

While in Beijing I will be staying with my friend and former grad school classmate, Kevin. A South Dakota native, Kevin lives in Vermillion during the academic year and lives in Beijing for two months each summer and still owns an apartment there. He knows the lay of the land, the right people, the best places to eat, and most importantly – the language.

One of Kevin’s friends that lives in China permanently will meet up with us to fly to Ho Chi Minh. Another friend of Kevin’s will be flying in to Ho Chi Minh from Sioux Falls, SD and the four of us will begin the 800 mile trek to Bangkok, Thailand. Travel arrangements have not been made but we know we must make it to Bangkok within 5 days for me to catch my flight home. All we know is that we will be crossing through Cambodia and I hope to visit the Killing Fields museum as well as travel on the Mekong river.

I’ll post more as I know more!

Some days I simply want to quit what I’m doing and then I remember this guy and his powerful message:

Bringing the funny. The article isn’t that great but the comments below the article are entertaining. Enjoy.

Ninjas Save The Day.